'Game of Thrones' Season 3, episode 2 recap: 'Dark Wings, Dark Words'

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Been missing quality Stark family time thus far in Season 3? Well you're in luck, because its second episode focused primarily on Bran, Robb, Arya, Sansa and Catelyn Stark. Jon Snow made a brief appearance north of the Wall and Joffrey, Margaery, Jaime and Brienne all got plenty of screentime, but "Dark Wings, Dark Words" was definitely about getting fans back in touch with "Game of Thrones'" central family. Each member seemed to be in pretty good circumstances at this point season, but they're each surrounded by characters new to Season 3.

Here's what happened in "Game of Thrones" Season 3, episode 2, "Dark Wings, Dark Words":

North of Winterfell:

Bran is back, and so are his crow dreams. The episode opens with one, which allows Isaac Hempstead-Wright to get up and run around when Bran chases the mysterious three-eyed crow in the dream. There he sees his older brothers, Jon and Robb, and can hear his father's voice. But Bran sees someone unexpected in the dream: a boy who tells him he can't kill the three-eyed crow because it is Bran.

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When Bran wakes up, he's with Osha, Rickon and Hodor not far from Winterfell. Judging by Osha's comments, they're heading towards the Wall, and she's lost patience with Bran's "black magic" dreams. They stay on the move, and when Bran wakes up from another dream later in the episode, the boy he saw is standing in front of him in real life. The boy's sister arrives soon after, and they introduce themselves as Jojen and Meera Reed. It turns out they've been looking for Bran, and have "much farther to go."

Jojen and Meera are the children of Howland Reed, one of Eddard Stark's bannermen. After Ned's death, they came to find Bran because he, according to Jojen, is the only thing that matters. Jojen knows Bran is a warg and also says he has "the sight," which explains why he sees the three-eyed crow. Jojen also has the sight, and it's clear that he has a lot of answers for Bran that no one else can give him. However, his plans for Bran have yet to be revealed.

With the King of the North:

Will we ever get sick of cute scenes between Talisa and Robb Stark? Probably not, but it seems like the King of the North's followers are over their leader's romance. Roose Bolton interrupts the newlyweds in the middle of a kiss and delivers two letters: one from Winterfell and the other from Catelyn's family's stronghold, Riverrun. Both contain bad news, hence the episode's title, "Dark Wings, Dark Words."

The news from Riverrun is that Catelyn's father, Hoster Tully, has died, while the news from Winterfell is that Bolton's bastard, Ramsay Bolton, found the Stark castle destroyed by Theon. The letter also says that Bran and Rickon are nowhere in sight, though Robb holds out hope that his brothers are alive. Catelyn is crushed by the news, and Robb leaves Bolton in charge of Harrenhal while he and his mother travel to Riverrun for Hoster's funeral. Rickard Karstark calls this side quest a distraction, but he really gets under the King of the North's skin when he tells him he lost their war the moment he married Talisa.

Speaking of Talisa, she and Catelyn share an interesting scene where the Stark matriarch opens up a bit about her hatred of Jon Snow. While making a dreamcatcher to pray for Bran and Rickon's safety, she explains to Talisa that she's only made the object twice in the past: once after Bran fell in Winterfell in Season 1, and earlier when Jon was a child and nearly died with the pox. She had prayed for Jon's death after Eddard brought back the bastard child, but when the Seven Gods seemingly granted her wish with his illness, she promised she would love him as a mother and make Ned give Jon the Stark's name. Clearly she didn't keep her promise when Jon lived, and she admits to Talisa, "Everything that's happened since then, all this horror that's come to my family, it's all because I couldn't love a motherless child." The lesson to be learned here: always keep the promises you make to higher powers.

Off the Kingsroad:

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Though Natalie Dormer continues to shine this season, it's Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who stole the show in "Dark Wings, Dark Words." Jaime and Brienne might be enemies in "Game of Thrones," but they also have some of the series' best chemistry. Though they did little more than walk through the woods towards King's Landing in this episode, their banter was one of its high points.

Notable highlights include Jaime taunting Brienne by calling her a "humorless mute" and, a "giant, toe-headed plank" and claiming he would have noticed her "dour head smacking into the archways" in Winterfell if she had served Catelyn Stark there. But Brienne wasn't the only target of his sharp tongue, as he also called Renly a "tulip" and said that if the Iron Throne was "made out of cocks, they'd have never gotten him off it." That finally gets to Brienne, who doesn't seem to know Renly was gay, and she defends the man she respected and crushed on. Jaime still mocks her but seems to empathize with her plight, saying, "We can't choose who we love."

Unfortunately for the duo, Jaime's words aren't the worst thing that they have to deal with. A man sees Brienne and Jaime in the woods, and Brienne lets him live despite Jaime's insistence that he recognized the Kingslayer. Later Jaime manages to get one of Brienne's swords from her and they duel -- she totally trounces him, for the record -- but Roose Bolton's men interrupt them. It turns out the man had recognized Jaime after all, meaning that he and Brienne are now captives of the King of the North's followers.

Somewhere near Winterfell:

Theon is back, and in some dire straits following his men betraying him in the Season 2 finale. His only two scenes in "Dark Wings, Dark Words" show him being tortured by unknown forces, and the scene where his fingernails get pried off is nearly impossible to watch. However, there does seem to be some small hope for Theon Greyjoy, as a man arrives claiming he was sent by Theon's sister Yara and that he's there to rescue the former Stark ward.

In King's Landing:

As tensions between Joffrey and his mother, Queen Cersei, continue to grow more strained, the young king and his bride-to-be, Margaery Tyrell, are definitely growing closer. Cersei tries to question Joffrey about his intended, and he chastises her by saying Margaery does what she is told to do.

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It's clear that Cersei realizes Margaery is more than meets the eye, and Renly's former wife proves she's just that when she later goes on a date with Joffrey. He tries to intimidate her by greeting her while holding his crossbow and taunting her about her marriage to Renly the traitor, but she counters each of his comments with the perfect, biddable response. Margaery confirms to Joffrey that Renly was gay, and he responds that he's considering making homosexuality an offense punishable by death.

Even that comment doesn't make Margaery lose her cool, and she makes a move on Joffrey, sliding her hand seductively up his crossbow. Joffrey has never been flirted with like this in the past, and he responds surprisingly well to it. Margaery really gets under his skin when she asks if she can go hunting with him, and he agrees. Joffrey doesn't realize how well Margaery is playing him, but it's clear to the audience that she knows just how to tickle his sadistic side.

Fortunately she had been prepped for the fact Joffrey is a "monster" by an earlier meeting with Sansa. Margaery had invited Joffrey's prisoner to meet her grandmother, Lady Olenna, and they press Sansa to tell them the type of person the King of Westeros really is. She finally admits that he is cruel and evil, though neither Margaery nor the Queen of Thorns seem especially surprised. This is Diana Rigg's first appearance on "Game of Thrones" as Olenna, and she's going to be a treat to watch for from what we've heard.

Meanwhile, Shae is concerned about Littlefinger's interest in Sansa. She warns her mistress to tell her if the Master of Coin ever makes any moves on her, and later goes to Tyrion to tell him they need to protect Sansa from Baelish. He pisses off his mistress by calling Sansa a "great beauty," but they resolve their problems pretty quickly. Clearly "Game of Thrones" is growing up a bit, because Tyrion and Shae managed to have a sex scene without Sibel Kekilli showing her breasts. In fact, there was no sexposition at all this episode, which is pretty impressive for the show.

North of the Wall:

Jon Snow, Mance Rayder and all the Wildlings don't have much to do in episode 2 beyond reminding viewers what a warg is. They go to meet with Mackenzie Crook's Orell as he uses a bird to scout for the Wildlings. When Jon admits he doesn't know what Orell is doing, Ygritte expresses surprise that he doesn't know what a warg is. Orell only has bad news of the men of the Night's Watch, as he tells Mance that he saw "dead crows" at the Fist of the First Men.

Cut to the surviving members of the Night's Watch men who were at the Fist. There Sam Tarly is having a difficult time trekking through the snow south to Craster's Keep, and Rast wears him down psychologically by calling him "piggy" and telling him to just give up. Sam finally succumbs and falls to the ground, and he stays there until Lord Mormont walks up to him and forbids him to die. Hopefully this encourages Sam to grow a backbone in later episodes, as Rast is proving to be more trouble than he's worth.

With the Brotherhood:

"Dark Wings, Dark Words" reveals that Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie are still on the run after escaping Harrenhal in Season 2. Gendry is still her criticizing for not putting the three deaths Jaqen H'ghar owed her to better use -- a valid complaint, to be fair -- when they stumble across a group walking through the woods. At long last, fans are introduced to the Brotherhood Without Banners, one of the most interesting groups to form during the War of the Five Kings.

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Paul Kaye's Thoros of Myr -- who we've heard so much about -- leads the Brotherhood as he sings "The Rains of Castamere." It's clear that this group is more than our trio of heroes can handle, as Thoros quickly forces them out of hiding. Based on Arya's attitude, she might have gotten a bit too cocky after her success with Jaqen and the escape from Harrenhal. Someone should remind her that it probably isn't the smartest move to challenge random strangers on the road.

Still, that's why we love the younger Stark daughter, and her pluck seems to earn Thoros' respect. He takes the three "young people" to the inn the Brotherhood has taken over, and there Arya again tries to prove how skilled she is. She draws her Harrenhal sword and points it directly in Thoros' face -- again, not a smart move on a normal day -- and he quickly shows her that she's not as good with the weapon as she thinks she is. That doesn't stop Thoros from allowing them to return to their journey -- at least, until the Brotherhood drags the Hound in. It seems that Sandor Clegane has taken to drinking until he passes out since he left King's Landing, and that allowed the Brotherhood to capture him. He unfortunately recognizes Arya as she, Gendry and Hot Pie try to make their exit, and tells Thoros that he has a "Stark b**ch" on his hands.

Fun facts:

- Though Bran is the only Stark seen having wolf dreams in "Game of Thrones," both Jon and Arya also have them in the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series. This means that they all are wargs like Orell the wildling. It's unclear if Robb is a warg as well (though he likely is), and Sansa doesn't seem to have the talent since the death of her direwolf, Lady.

- Following the events of "A Clash of Kings" when Theon sacks Winterfell, the character's fate isn't addressed in the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series until "A Dance with Dragons." Many believed him to be dead throughout book three, "A Storm of Swords," and book four, "A Feast for Crows," so it's a welcome surprise to see that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss decided to show what happens with his storyline in Season 3.

- Sansa's love of lemon cakes is frequently mentioned in the "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels, so it was a nice nod to the books when Lady Olenna offers Sansa the tasty treat.

- The question "Where's Rickon?" has been a recurring joke throughout all of "Game of Thrones" -- it even has a hilarious Tumblr. It stems from the fact that Rickon's character isn't very developed and is also rarely seen throughout the series. That's the same in the "A Song of Ice and Fire" books, though there are some good theories about where Rickon is in "A Dance with Dragons." That's why it was so funny to hear Bran ask Osha, "Where's Rickon?" in this episode.

- If "Game of Thrones" had stuck with the books it's based on, then Jojen and Meera Reed would have been introduced in Season 2. Both characters first appear in "A Clash of Kings" before Theon sacks Winterfell. However, it works just as well having them appear in Season 3 to bulk up Bran's storyline.

Best lines:

Jaime of Renly being gay: "It's a shame the [Iron] Throne wasn't made out of cocks, they'd have never got him off it."

Catelyn of hating Jon Snow: "Everything that's happened since then, all this horror that's come to my family, it's all because I couldn't love a motherless child."

Lady Olenna of the current state of Westeros: "Once the cow's been milked there's no squirting the cream back up her udder, so here we are to see things through."

Photo/Video credit: HBO